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Rev. Jesse Jackson Returns from Peace Conference and Makes Plea to Iran for Release of Roxana Saberi

April 23, 2009

During the live international broadcast of the Rainbow PUSH Saturday Morning Forum, Rev. Jesse Jackson highlighted his recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and discussed ways to improve the global economy.

"Now is our chance for a "change" moment," he said. "Now is our chance to globalize human rights and workers rights, protect women and children, and save the global environment."

Hosted by the International Peace Foundation, Rev. Jackson was the keynote speaker during the "Bridges: Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace" program in Malaysia April 19-24.

At a press conference held after the forum, Rev. Jackson discussed his efforts to obtain visas for a delegation to travel to Iran to attempt to secure the release of imprisoned American journalist Roxana Saberi.

"This is a matter of life and death," said Rev. Jackson. "I am making a moral and humanitarian plea for the release of Roxana Saberi."

Saberi, 31, has been sentenced to eight years in prison after being accused of spying. She is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Earlier in the week, it was reported she had begun a hunger strike in prison.

Sheri Weiss and Bradley Akubuiro, two Northwestern journalism students, stood with Rev. Jackson and shared their concern. "I refuse to be a bystander," said Weiss. "A threat to one journalist and one American is a threat to us all. I do not hold the power in this situation but I am not powerless."

Rev. Jackson went on to say, "We think this young lady deserves our earnest appeal for her release. We'd like to meet with the appropriate religious and political leaders in Iran."

In 1984, Jackson successfully secured the release of downed Navy pilot Lt. Robert Goodman who was held by Syria. In 1991, he helped secure the release of 500 "international guests" held in Iraq, and in 1999, he worked to persuade Yugoslavia to release three U.S. soldiers held there during the Kosovo conflict. In 2005, Rev. Jackson offered to help secure the release of Roy Hallums who was kidnapped, along with five others, in Baghdad in November 2004.

On other fronts, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund will host their 2009 annual conference, "A More Perfect Union -- Targeted Stimulus: The Key to Reconstruction," from June 27 to July 1 at the Hyatt McCormick Place, 2233 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Chicago.

"We seek to fight for a stimulus package that will reconstruct neighborhoods and not just banks," Rev. Jackson said. "Bailing out banks may be the wrong emphasis."

Some confirmed guests for this year's conference are U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan and Citi Inc. Chairman, Vikram Pandit.

Saturday Morning Forum airs at 10 a.m. CST on the Word Network, CAN-TV and WJYS.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366. -30-